Movie News & Reviews

At least Hathaway shows range

It’s been quite a year for Anne Hathaway. Starting with last summer’s “Get Smart,” the former Disney ingénue has become a force to be reckoned with on both an artistic and commercial level.

Hathaway starred in four movies, was a guest on “The Simpsons,” earned an Oscar nomination and became tabloid fodder when her Italian boyfriend was charged with defrauding churches.

Whew! But is Hathaway going to last, or be just another flash in the pan “It Girl”? Let’s take a look at three of her recent performances, in descending order of quality.

THE GREAT

Any doubts about whether Hathaway can act are certainly laid to rest in RACHEL GETTING MARRIED (R, hhh), in which she delivers a raw, powerhouse performance portraying an unlikeable character that eventually elicits sympathy from the audience – never an easy task.

It’s too bad the movie around her character is somewhat (purposely, I assume) rambling. I’m no editor, but I could trim 30 minutes off this movie easily and leave the message intact. In fact, I think it would have been a more effective film without the tedious scenes that pulled you away from the core story.

Fresh out of rehab, Kym (Hathaway) is returning home for her sister Rachel’s (Rosemarie DeWitt) wedding. Since Kym has been in and out of rehab for the past few years, the reunion with her family remains somewhat awkward, especially given Kym’s blunt ways and the persistent shadow of a past tragedy.

Make no mistake, Kym is not an easy person to get along with. Self-absorbed, rude and grating, she immediately turns a placid wedding party on edge, stealing thunder from her sister, and reopening still-raw wounds.

But the wedding must go on, and the movie shows us that despite its problems, this family is determined to let love be the deciding factor – Kym, Rachel and their parents may be imperfect, but they do the best they can to bring joy into their lives.

Director Jonathan Demme shoots the film almost like a free-flowing conversation, switching from traditional to hand-held cameras, using the background music of the wedding players as the score, and lingering on “everyday” scenes and the wedding itself.

At times, that approach delivers a verité look at the proceedings. At others, it feels like unnecessary filler. You wind up forgetting about Kym when forced to watch extended scenes from the reception.

Still, this was a well-deserved Oscar nod for Hathaway, who delivered a nuanced effort that had not been seen in her earlier. I hope the lure of big-budget pictures won’t prevent her from going the indie route in the future.

THE BAD

The number of times I laughed during BRIDE WARS (PG, h): 2.

The number of montages during said film: 6.

That, my friends, is not a good laugh-to-montage ratio. I have no idea what Hathaway and co-star Kate Hudson saw in this repellent, stereotypical film, but it’s somewhat painful to see two talented actors flop about in search of laughs.

Hathaway and Hudson star as Emma and Liv, two lifelong friends who dream of one day getting married at the luxurious Plaza Hotel in New York City.

Well, of course, it just so happens that Hathaway, a meek schoolteacher, and Hudson, a ball-busting lawyer, get engaged at the same time, allowing them to go to the Plaza and coordinate their big days with the world’s best wedding planner (Candice Bergen).

However, because of a clerical error, Emma and Liv are scheduled to get married on the same day. And since neither woman will budge, their friendship, which has stood the test of time, is inexplicably over.

Before you know it, these women are committing unspeakable acts of treachery against each other. Say what you want for us boorish men, but we would never sabotage a friend – not even over football.

Anyway, something must give, because this is a Hollywood movie and there must be some sort of happy ending. I’m not spoiling much by saying that one of the girls comes to the realization that her bland fiancé is not for her (which is telegraphed a mile away, because the guys are actors you’ve never seen before, and there’s another guy floating about that you have seen).

There’s not much to say about the acting here – this is a strictly paint-by-the-numbers plot, and Hathaway does what she can to play the “nice” girl. I know women like weddings, but this is one RSVP you can toss.

THE WORST

OK, here’s the deal if you’re trying to make a certain type of film: You have to be committed to it at some point, even if you’re hoping to trick the audience. You can’t be deadly serious for 65 minutes and then become a slapstick comedy for the last 20.

And that’s the problem with PASSENGERS (PG-13, h), a movie that plays it straight for so long that its out-of-left-field turn in the final third rings hollow.

You can see why the folks at Sony quietly sent this off into the good night. With Hathaway earning an Oscar nod for “Rachel,” there was no need to call attention to this feeble genre flick, and so it came and went without much fanfare.

Hathaway stars as Claire, a grief counselor assigned to a group of airplane crash survivors. Claire immediately becomes drawn to Eric (Patrick Wilson), who has become a new man since the crash, refusing to even acknowledge the trauma he might have faced.

Claire begins digging into the reason for the crash, and her suspicions are heightened when the members of her group begin disappearing. You might be intrigued by this premise, but trust me, the film does everything in its power to undermine any interest.

The score is intrusive and omnipresent, weakening any dramatic scene with twinkling pianos; a blowing newspaper reduces Hathaway to near tears, and the viewer to peals of laughter; and the blatant shots of Vancouver, B.C., disguised as generic U.S. cities were distracting.

For her part, Hathaway should avoid these kinds of films. Her performance here was downright laughable.

All parties involved, including director Rodrigo Garcia, have done better work. Yeah, the ending makes some sense and is semi-interesting, but slogging your way through to get there isn’t worth the effort.

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